LOGAN SQUARE — The city is moving to protect and make repairs in neighborhoods, which were hit hard by vandalism and looting Sunday.
Chicago saw peaceful protesters throughout the day Sunday, with people marching and chanting in honor of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis. But separate groups of people used the weekend as an opportunity to steal, smash store windows and burn down buildings.
The South and West sides of the city faced the worst of the damage.
Hoping to help with repairs and curb further incidents, the city is keeping police on patrol throughout residential neighborhoods and city workers are pouring into commercial corridors to start fixing the damage.
“When you loot a business, you’re not just taking goods. You’re destroying someone’s dreams,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a Monday press conference. “Those small businesses sacrifice and save money to have their dream realized and hired employees from your neighborhood to serve you. You took their hope and destroyed it.
“And we’re not gonna let that happen, which is why we are launching all these city services into the neighborhoods to step up and support our neighbors, your neighbors, so that they can recover and they can rebuild.”
Police officers will continue to work 12-hour shifts, patrolling neighborhoods and arresting people for vandalism and theft, said Supt. David Brown. The Illinois National Guard still has soldiers surrounding the Downtown area and limiting who can go into the Loop and River North.
Lightfoot said people should call 911 where they see something and police will respond. She urged people to not try to take matters into their own hands.
“We’re concerned about safety everywhere. Everywhere,” Lightfoot said. “And there are people, unfortunately, who are roving the city trying to find soft spots that they can exploit. I know that firsthand. And we’re gonna meet that challenge.”
Other city agencies are focusing on rebuilding efforts, with Lightfoot saying workers were particularly focused on the South and West sides.
Streets and Sanitation will have workers out 6 a.m.-6 p.m. with “blowers, rakes, shovels and bags” to pick up garbage and clean debris if they see it, said Commissioner John Tully. Street sweepers are being taken out of the Loop and sent to areas that have faced the most damage.
The Department of Buildings has workers out assessing buildings throughout the city to determine how much damage they’ve sustained and to help owners get their windows and doors boarded up.
The city had worked with 180 buildings just by Sunday night, and workers are continuing to go through neighborhoods Monday, said Commissioner Judy Frydland.
“We want to get you ready, and we’re here to be there for you,” Frydland said. “With that said, if you notice a property that’s open and you don’t see that it’s been addressed yet, please call 311.”
The city’s business department is speaking with local chambers of commerce to figure out how to best help small businesses, said Commissioner Rosa Escareno. Owners who need help should contact their local chamber of commerce, which will then work with the city.
Malcolm Crawford, from the Austin African American Chamber of Commerce, said he’s seen people already taking time out of their day to walk around the streets and help with cleanup.
“When it’s darkest, that’s when you begin to see the light,” Crawford said. “And right now, we know it’s dark but soon we’ll see the light.”
Businesses throughout Chicago had already been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, and owners were eager to open up and workers excited to get back to work this week, Escareno said. Now, all of that has been jeopardized because stores were damaged and stolen from.
“We know that this is a frightening time. … In my lifetime, I have not seen what we have seen today. But this yet shall pass,” Escareno said. “We are ready to reopen. We are ready to start rebuilding.”
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